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Bundesliga

Opinion: Carlo Ancelotti faces three vital games to prove his worth at Bayern Munich

Two points dropped against Hoffenheim is yet another example of Bayern Munich stuttering under Carlo Ancelotti. Yet the new coach's real test is yet to come in a Bundesliga title race with a host of surprise contenders.

If not for the mistimed slide of Hoffenheim defender Steven Zuber in Saturday's match at the Allianz Arena that sent the ball past his own goalkeeper, Julian Nagelsmann and his in-form side would have left Munich with three points.

Although Carlo Ancelotti's team pushed for a late winner through any means possible – including a rare shot from Mats Hummels off the post and a Thomas Müller clanger in the dying moments – it was a scenario that Bayern fans have quickly grown used to lately.

The draw was the third time the German champions had dropped points this season in the Bundesliga and the fourth time in their last nine games in all competitions that they have failed to win a match.

Aside from Hoffenheim, the two other Bundesliga sides that have taken points off the Bavarian giants this season are Eintracht Frankfurt and Cologne. Although both teams are well-drilled and doing exceptionally well in the league so far, there's absolutely no reason why they should be clawing points from Ancelotti's side.

Bayern are six points off the total they amassed under Pep Guardiola at this stage last season and there is a much deeper problem for Ancelotti. Aside from simply dropping points, the Italian coach has struggled to get Bayern dancing to his tune.

Fußball Bundesliga FC Bayern München - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Gebert)

Arjen Robben was among the frustrated Bayern players against Hoffenheim

The transition from the obsessive and dogmatic Guardiola to the hands-off, relaxed style of Ancelotti was always going to take time but with the increased competition from the likes of RB Leipzig, Hertha Berlin and Hoffenheim, the new coach hasn't been afforded much time to get things working.

In search of a galvanizing move, the 57-year-old decided to drop Thomas Müller in early October for two traditional wingers in Arjen Robben and Douglas Costa as he tried to shoe-horn Pep's squad into his tried and tested 4-3-3.  It hasn't worked. Instead of high-pressure football with Guardiola and Matthias Sammer screaming from the sidelines, a ponderous Bayern seem to be looking for answers from their muted coach.

However, the real tests are yet to come. Following the international break, Bayern will be tasked with a long trip to the Westfalenstadion where a Borussia Dortmund side with a point to prove eagerly await. Following that they then host Roger Schmidt's Bayer Leverkusen, a team that have lost just two of their five encounters against Bayern since the coach took over the reins.

If that wasn't challenging enough, late in December they welcome RB Leipzig, the promoted side that seem intent on challenging for the title at the first time of asking.

It'll be these three games that decide just how comfortable Ancelotti's first title tilt will be in Germany. Following the unconvincing results of late, all three teams will surely be aware that they can take something from a stuttering Bayern team that look far from the Guardiola side that dominated the domestic scene for the past three years.

Although Ancelotti was brought to Munich to win the European Cup first and foremost, his side's particularly average performances in the Bundesliga have come while other big clubs Dortmund, Leverkusen, Wolfsburg and Schalke have faltered. Quite simply, Bayern should be way ahead at the summit. 

The Munich side may still top of the Bundesliga table but in the Bavarian capital excellence and perfection are the only tools for battling the critics. Guardiola won three consecutive leagues titles with ease and even he was fed up with the media's incessant questioning of his credentials by the time he left for Manchester City.

If Ancelotti suggests, even for a second, that he can't match that kind of form then he's in trouble. In the next month, in these three key games, he'll be given the perfect opportunity to prove his worth.

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